SILVER CITY, N.M. (AP) — A wildfire burning in the mountains of southwestern New Mexico grew to 9 square miles Wednesday, and may grow even more because of expected high winds, officials said.
The Signal Fire in the Gila National Forest swelled as crews worked to tame the raging blaze, which remained 15 percent contained.
The fire is located about 10 miles north of Silver City.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, the wildfire remained steady Tuesday thanks to cooler weather, but forecast winds may spread the flames later in the week.
The inferno is believed to be human-caused.
The Silver City Daily Press reported (http://goo.gl/YwkytX) that New Mexico Type II Interagency Incident Team Operations Section Chief Paul Delmerico told an audience at a community meeting that the east end of the fire is still the most active and it’s in rough and rugged terrain.
“The west end of the fire near New Mexico 15 is looking good, because of our engines and air resources,” Delmerico said. “We’re making good progress on the north side. The southern boundary is still a problem, but I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Gila National Forest Aviation and Fire Staff Officer Gabe Holguin told the Daily Press that 507 firefighters are fighting the blaze, but that four additional Hot Shot crews have been assigned to the east end in anticipation of high winds expected Saturday. Winds could reach up to 50 mph, forecasters say.
“We are limited to hand work in constructing the fire line, because we can’t get dozers in,” Holguin said.
New Mexico has experienced record-setting fire seasons during two of the last three years, and land managers are worried this summer could be another record-setter given the dry conditions. The state has been battered by drought and persistently high fire danger in recent years.